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SIC chiefs attend Islands Bill session

Council convener Malcolm Bell: 'impressed by the committee's grasp of the concept of the bill'.

SHETLAND Islands Council convenor Malcolm Bell and chief executive Mark Boden were among a number of representatives who attended an evidence gathering session about the Scottish Government’s proposed Islands Bill in Orkney earlier this week.

The session in Kirkwall allowed councils, organisations and local people a chance to have their say on the bill, which was first introduced earlier this year and is heralded as a way of creating “sustainable growth and empowered communities” in island regions.

Speaking after the event, Bell told Shetland News that it provided an “important opportunity” to provide direct evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s rural economy and connectivity committee as it scrutinises the bill.

A report is from the committee is expected to be fed back to decision makers by the end of October before the proposed bill is debated in parliament.

“I was impressed by the committee’s grasp of the concept of the bill, its implications and the benefits it could bring to Shetland at a time of pressure on and change in the delivery of public services,” Bell said.

“In particular we were able to provide evidence on the practical benefits of ‘island proofing’, our expectations for the proposed National Islands Plan and the option of one and two member wards in certain circumstances.”

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain chairs the committee and he said the session went “really well”.

He said he saw a “clear wish” between Shetland and Orkney to work together on the matter.

“I think what they’ve proved probably to the committee is that there is a clear difference between islands with councils and councils with islands,” Mountain said.

“The latter probably being a little bit more reserved about the extra powers that it might bring.

“Let me tell you, your convenor Malcolm absolutely made it 100 per cent clear how important it is. I think what will really become very important once the bill has gone through is making sure that the island plan is right for Shetland.”